When I started studying at a university, it felt like entering a brand new world.
How was I to find relevant research resources? And how was I to cite them in my work? Which websites were okay to use and which were out of the question?
Now that I’ve graduated, the academic universe is very familiar to me, but back then, each day meant a new discovery.
Let’s make the journey a little bit easier for you, shall we? Here are the basics of using research resources in your academic work.
What are research resources?
Research resources are a fundamental part of any academic paper.
Without them, you wouldn’t be able to place your work in the right context, not to mention cover potential gaps in the existing knowledge and support the validity of your arguments.
Here’s a quick rundown of various research resources you can use:
- Articles published in academic journals
- Newspapers (if relevant)
- Films (if relevant)
- Audio materials (if relevant)
- Websites (if relevant + highly credible sources only)
RELATED READ: How to Get Your Research Published
The most widely used sources are books and academic articles because they’re a treasure trove of knowledge when it comes to discovering everything there is to know about your field.
Furthermore, research resources can be split into three categories:
- Primary sources (for example, a book that you’re directly discussing in the essay)
- Secondary sources (articles and books written by academics or professionals in the field that discuss your primary source)
- Tertiary sources (summaries of primary and secondary sources on a specific subject that are often read by beginners, e.g., Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Jonathan Culler)
Each research resource that you cite in your work needs to be referenced in the bibliography, as well as in the footnotes or in-text citations (depending on your citation style).
Be careful about which citation style you choose – some universities or lecturers may require you to use a specific one.
These are the three most common ones:
- APA: In-text-citation: (Culler, 1997, p. 10)
- MLA: In-text-citation: (Culler, p. 10)
- MHRA: Footnote: 1Jonathan D. Culler, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. (Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 10.
How to find credible sources
If you want to write a great research paper, you’ve got to acquire a valid base of knowledge first and foremost. And reading about the subject in question on Wikipedia simply won’t cut it.
There is a vast number of online and offline places you can access in order to find credible academic sources, such as:
- Your university library: online (academic libraries often give you access to dozens or hundreds of journals, and their search bar tool is usually pretty easy to navigate)
- Your university library: offline (there are books upon books of knowledge you can browse, and it’s always possible to ask a library assistant for help if you need it)
- Your university bookshop
- Google Scholar and Google Books (free academic research that’s easily accessible since you can just use the search bar to look for articles on a specific topic)
- JSTOR (an online journal – many students get to access it for free through their university account)
- Project Gutenberg (an online library that offers free ebooks – these are often classics that come in handy for literature students)
- PubMed Central (a valuable research bank on medicine, psychology, and more that is run by The National Library of Medicine)
- ResearchGate (a website that lets you access millions of publication pages and scholarly articles)
- ScienceDirect (another website that helps you find millions of peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and more)
- BCM (open-access journals on biology, health, and medicine)
- Springer (a technical, medical, and scientific portfolio – again, this is a vast archive of ebooks and academic articles)
RELATED READ: Credible Scientific Research: Importance of sources
No matter which topic your work is targeting or which research method you’re using, it’s crucial to use high-quality resources that support your research and demonstrate your knowledge in the field.
As for how many resources are needed, it depends on your academic institution, the requirements of individual lecturers or supervisors, and the type of research you’re doing.
In my first year of university, it was recommended to use at least four resources per 1500-word essay. In my final year, I used anywhere between ten to thirty per 3000 words.
However, keep in mind that the quality of your arguments is far more valuable than the number of references you’ve collected.
Read widely, but always aim to use only those sources that are truly relevant to the topic.